In only its fourth month since launch, Sarasota’s Bay Runner trolley and micro-mobility programs have earned international recognition for innovative transportation solutions.
During last week’s meeting of the St. Armands Business District board of directors, Mark Lyons, the city’s parking and mobility general manager, announced the International Parking & Mobility Institute has given the city its Award of Excellence for Innovation.
Sarasota’s award submission received the highest marks of all entries in the category. The city’s award-winning programs are featured in the IPMI’s June edition of Parking & Mobility magazine.
“We’ve gone up against cities like Miami, New York, Dallas and other cities that submitted for this award, and we scored the highest,” Lyons said. “It’s a real honor, but it's all because of the effort of everybody here wanting to make this work.”
The Bay Runner that launched in early March with the slogan “Live more, drive less” and the electric scooter and bike rental-sharing program that rolled out just two weeks later have been met with higher-than-expected use, Lyons said.
The Bay Runner, a free, open-air trolley with daily service from 8 a.m. to midnight, runs between downtown Sarasota through St. Armands Circle to Lido Beach and back every 20-30 minutes. The e-scooter/e-bike rental program, operated by Veo through a phone app, is reporting record demand. Within the first two months, 41,000 people rode the Bay Runner, and 37,600 rented a scooter or bicycle for a short distance trip, helping to reduce traffic.
“The two programs are working together,” Lyons said. “We see people get off the trolley and get on a scooter and vice-versa for the first or last mile of their trip. People are getting to their destination in an enjoyable, convenient way, and that’s making these mobility initiatives meaningful and impactful. Many people and agencies have supported these programs, and this award is the result of that commitment.”
Veo offers e-scooters and e-bikes for rent in designated parking corrals on rights of way throughout the city. The daily micro-mobility demand in Sarasota has surpassed Veo’s expectations with 1,000 rides on Memorial Day alone.
“The motto of ‘Live more, drive less’ is perfectly put into practice with this experiential journey,” said one award juror. “Transporting employees, residents and tourists between the beach and downtown in a stress-free, fun manner will have huge and lasting benefits to both riders and the city alike.”
The Bay Runner is a partnership between the city, the Downtown Improvement District, St. Armands Business Improvement District and the Florida Department of Transportation. In addition to city economic development funds and a $1.5 million FDOT grant, the DID and BID each allocated $50,000 toward the three-year trolley pilot program. The service is operated by CPR Medical Transportation, which also operates the Siesta Key Breeze.
The trolley and micro-mobility options were first identified through citizen input during the creation of the city’s first transportation master plan, Sarasota in Motion, adopted by the City Commission in 2020.
Information about the Bay Runner, including a route map, mobile app, accessibility and parking options, can be found at SarasotaBayRunner.com. The Bay Runner mobile app allows for real-time trolley tracking and can be downloaded through the App Store and Google Play. To learn about Veo’s Sarasota service, visit VeoRide.com/Sarasota. FAQs about the e-scooter rental program are available at SarasotaFL.gov.